UConn News HomeUConn News

UConn gets $3.5 million for chemistry chair, programs (Released: 1/7/97)

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- The son and daughter-in-law of a former chemistry professor at the University of Connecticut have given $1.75 million to the University of Connecticut Foundation to support the University's chemistry department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, President Philip Austin announced today.

The gift from Harold S. Schwenk Jr. and Paula Schwenk '79 is the largest single gift from individual donors to the University. It will be matched by the state under UCONN 2000, for a total endowment of $3.5 million.

The Schwenks' gift, announced at a press conference at the State Capitol, brings to $16 million the total raised under the state's matching gifts program from private donors in the 12 months since the program's inception.

Under UCONN 2000 -- a 10-year, $1 billion state program to rebuild the University of Connecticut's campuses -- the state will match up to $20 million raised by the University from private sources during a two-year period which began Jan. 1, 1996 and paid no later than the year 2000.

"The Schwenks' gift is a dramatic illustration of the role of UCONN 2000 in helping the University fulfill its vision of being recognized among the best public institutions in the nation," said Gov. John Rowland. "The program is having exactly the success in building private sector support that I envisioned when I supported the initial legislation."

Austin echoed Rowland's enthusiasm in saying "Thanks to UCONN 2000, we will soon have a new chemistry building. Thanks to the Schwenks' generosity we will be able to attract an exceptional scholar who will bring additional visibility to the University, enhance the chemistry department's stature in the field and underscore the critical importance of building undergraduate strength in the sciences."

The University will use $2.5 million of the endowment to establish a distinguished chair in chemistry that will be named for the donor's father, Harold S. Schwenk Sr.

The remaining $1 million is earmarked for an educational program to encourage undergraduates to pursue the sciences. The Fund for Innovative Education in Science will enhance the University's science curriculum and will allow the University to take advantage of unusual opportunities for undergraduate students.

Harold S. Schwenk Jr. is chairman of the board and a founder of BGS Systems, a software company that develops products to analyze the performance of today's enterprise-wide distributed computing systems and networks.

The Schwenk family has close ties with UConn. Harold Schwenk grew up in Storrs, where his father, Harold S. Schwenk, Sr., taught chemistry at UConn from 1922 through 1951. Harold Schwenk Sr., graduated from UConn in 1916. He died in 1986. His widow, L. Ann (Green) Schwenk, is a 1928 UConn graduate. Paula Schwenk received a master's degree in education from UConn in 1979, and her uncle, Robert Johnson, '22, was a member of the faculty in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources from 1923 to 1969.

"My wife and I have been impressed by Connecticut's commitment to the University as expressed in the UCONN 2000 program," Schwenk said. "We are pleased, especially as a native daughter and son, to be able to help UConn attain its goals and become an even greater asset to the state."

With the Schwenks' gift, the University is getting close to the $20 million total the state will match under UCONN 2000. University officials plan to seek legislation during the legislative session that begins tomorrow that would continue a matching gifts program.

"When the state rallied to the support of the University with the UCONN 2000 legislation, we vowed to do our part to raise money from private sources and to build our endowment resources to a competitive level," said Edward Allenby, vice president for institutional advancement. "While state funding and student tuition will remain the primary sources of funding for the University, private donations enable us to pursue initiatives that we could not ordinarily undertake, and to add a critical margin that will make good programs outstanding."